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Theater veteran, newcomer add punch to comedy show

 

Elvis may have left the building, but he left behind an entertaining group of folks scrambling to not miss a beat, pun intended. The ensuing hilarity involves two characters in particular who are very focused on their work:  Trudy, the Colonel’s no-nonsense secretary, and Jill, the pushy reporter determined to find some dirt.

Halifax County Little Theatre veteran Linda Shepperd and newcomer Erin Thackston bring the two female characters to life respectively in the winter comedy directed by Becky Donner.

“This is a fast-moving comedy that involves hypnotism, confusion, physical comedy and situations that get funnier as the show goes on,” said Shepherd. “I did a play a few years back that was directed by Becky Donner, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to work with her again.”

Thackston joins the cast with one show under her belt already this season. 

“After years of being interested in community theatre and wishing to be a part of the excitement of acting on stage, I finally auditioned for my first play this past fall. I was cast as Rachel in ‘I Love You and You and You’, a dinner theatre fund-raiser for HCLT,” Thackston said.

The mom of two had some special encouragement from home to be a part of this show. “My daughter, Courtland, has been so excited about the Elvis play and asked me to audition. She is a big Elvis fan and even had an Elvis-themed birthday party when she turned 4. She knows all of his songs and all of his movies. I knew I would be immortalized in her mind if I got a part in the play.”

Shepperd was bitten by the theater bug about 15 years ago and has made numerous appearances on local stages. 

“I remember my very first show and that first rush of excitement and a very comfortable feeling,” Shepperd explained. “I felt at home. Hearing the audience laugh and being a part of them having a good time makes every show worth it. The lights, the set, the people…I love being on the stage.”

Trudy comes to life with Shepperd’s quirky approach. “I am the Colonel’s very competent, no-nonsense secretary, Trudy. Trudy is German and does her best to take care of business and keep the Colonel straight. I probably should apologize to our German friends who have beautiful accents. My accent falls somewhere between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eva Gabor in Green Acres...throw in a bit of Southern and that’s my Trudy!”

Thackston’s character has a bit of a different edge. “I play the part of Jill Tanner, an ace newspaper reporter who is determined to find some dirt on Elvis to print in the newspaper nationwide. The Colonel refers to Jill Tanner as ‘The Mouth of Memphis’ and ‘Front Page Poison,’ and she will stop at nothing to get her story.”

“This is a funny show,” Thackston continued. “There are a few lines I have heard 20 times, and I still laugh out loud when I hear them. It never gets old. I have to give credit to Johnny Berry - he really hams it up for this show.”

Shepperd agreed that Johnny Berry’s character has left an impression.

“My granddaughters have been to a few rehearsals, and they thoroughly enjoy Roscoe. I don’t want to give away any secrets, but they have named their next dog Roscoe. Come to the show. It will all make sense.”

“Elvis Has Left the Building” opens on Friday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. on The Prizery stage and runs for two weekends, including a Sunday Matinee on Feb. 17 and a weeknight show on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at HCLT.org or by contacting The Prizery box office at 572-8339.